Takin’ Care of Business

John Murtha (D-Bag, Pennsylvania) made more news this past weekend. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Critics claim John Murtha is capitalizing on a corrupt system, but he’s not apologizing tells

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — This city once had a steel-based economy and critics now say it has a John Murtha-based economy but, in what used to be the 11-inch rolling mill of Bethlehem Steel, nobody’s apologizing.

And later

Johnstown made Mr. Murtha the king of earmarks. Prone to floods and wracked by unemployment when steel collapsed, the city turned to its congressman to save its economy and Mr. Murtha, for his part, turned to the federal budget.

And

On a suburban hillside, in a development called the John P. Murtha Technology Center, just a stone’s throw from the John P. Murtha Airport, a group of locals set up Concurrent Technologies Corp., a nonprofit research and technology combine that found its footing with Murtha-directed earmarks.

Today CTC employs 1,400 people with 21 offices around the country and has a payroll of $66 million — $40 million of it for the 800 employees stationed in Johnstown. A few miles from CTC’s headquarters sits Kuchera Industries, another garage startup that struggled through the 1980s and then found itself flush with defense contracts under Mr. Murtha’s tutelage.

Multinational firms, from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to DRS Technologies and the Norwegian firm Kongsberg Gruppen, have set up outposts here, capturing defense contracts and partnering with local companies such as CTC and JWF.

No one has tallied the amount Mr. Murtha has steered into his district, which sprawls well beyond the Conemaugh Valley and reaches the West Virginia border. Conservative estimates are in the billions of dollars, most of it lobbied from federal agencies or won through open bidding or, more controversially, steered home directly during his 35-year career.

And, unbelievably, Murtha had this to say

“If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district.”

Well there you have it. Murtha has just committed a cardinal sin: blurting out the truth.

In all of the outrage over AIG bonuses and executive pay, we have lost site of the bothersome patronage and ethical scandals that abound in Congress.

Besides Murtha, we have Countrywide Financial and the “friends of Angelo” program that provided sweetheart loans to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.).

And then there is Barney Frank. This article from the New York Times in September of 2003 tells of the Bush administration’s proposal to establish a new oversight office for Fannie and Freddie.

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.

The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.

The plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — which together have issued more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt — is broken.

This is at odds with the conventional assumptions, namely that somehow the Bush administration stripped away all manner of protection. Sorry. Fantasy. But the article does indicate Barney Frank’s feelings about additional oversight

“These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ”The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”

So, you see, it really is about affordable housing.

The likes of Murtha, Frank, and Dodd pose much greater threats to our long-term economic viability than $160 million in bonus payments.

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